Microfabricated modules for sample handling, sample concentration and flow mixing: application to protein analysis by tandem mass spectrometry

J Biomech Eng. 1999 Feb;121(1):7-12. doi: 10.1115/1.2798048.


The comprehensive analysis of biological systems requires a combination of genomic and proteomic efforts. The large-scale application of current genomic technologies provides complete genomic DNA sequences, sequence tags for expressed genes (EST's), and quantitative profiles of expressed genes at the mRNA level. In contrast, protein analytical technology lacks the sensitivity and the sample throughput for the systematic analysis of all the proteins expressed by a tissue or cell. The sensitivity of protein analysis technology is primarily limited by the loss of analytes, due to adsorption to surfaces, and sample contamination during handling. Here we summarize our work on the development and use of microfabricated fluidic systems for the manipulation of minute amounts of peptides and delivery to an electrospray ionization tandem mass spectrometer. New data are also presented that further demonstrate the potential of these novel approaches. Specifically, we describe the use of microfabricated devices as modules to deliver femtomole amounts of protein digests to the mass spectrometer for protein identification. We also describe the use of a microfabricated module for the generation of solvent gradients at nl/min flow rates for gradient chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry. The use of microfabricated fluidic systems reduces the risk of sample contamination and sample loss due to adsorption to wetted surfaces. The ability to assemble dedicated modular systems and to operate them automatically makes the use of microfabricated systems attractive for the sensitive and large-scale analysis of proteins.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Equipment Design
  • Mass Spectrometry / instrumentation*
  • Mass Spectrometry / methods
  • Proteins / isolation & purification*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Solvents
  • Specimen Handling / instrumentation
  • Specimen Handling / methods
  • Surface Properties


  • Proteins
  • Solvents